THE SWEET SIXTEEN - #13 - BRIAN HENDRICK#13 - BRIAN HENDRICK - FORWARD/CENTER (1990-1993)
The forgotten man of modern Cal basketball. When Blues Old and Young discuss the great players in recent history, Hendrick's name rarely enters the conversation. His timing was bad - Hendrick was a three-time all-conference pick on mediocre teams during the fall of Lou Campanelli. Then he hurt his knee, and a certain heralded point guard arrived and sucked the oxygen from Harmon Gymnasium, and that was that. No NBA career - lost in the shuffle.
It's a shame, too, because Brian Hendrick was the best freshman not named Shareef or Jason that I've seen at Cal. He averaged 14.9 ppg and 7.6 rpg as Cal's first true dominant post player on both ends since Ansley Truitt (Leonard Taylor was great, but wasn't as dynamic as Brian). In that freshman year he teamed with Keith Smith and juniors Ryan Drew and Roy Fisher to lead the Bears into the round of 32 with a gutty 65-63 win over Bobby Knight and Indiana. In that game Hendrick led all players with 10 boards and added 13 points against Hoosier star Eric Anderson.
As a sophomore he rounded out his offensive game with a mid-range jumper and upped his average to 17.6 ppg, but the Bears began their slide into disarray. Drew was benched, and a weird 3-guard rotation of Sean Harrell, Billy Dreher and fan favorite Bill Elleby never delivered consistently on either end of the court. Even the additions of Lamond Murray and Al Grigsby in 1991-2 couldn't save the Bears from another losing season - this one at 10-18. It was in mid-February of that junior campaign that Hendrick dislocated his knee against Stanford. He immediately underwent surgery and was lost for the remainder of the season. He still won all-conference honors for his work, the third time in a row he was selected to the Pac-10's first team. To this day he is one of only two men in school history to receive that honor.
Then came Kidd, and Cal fans couldn't understand why the team didn't play better. Some blamed Hendrick, who was still somewhat tentative after surgery, for inexplicable losses to James Madison and Cornell. In truth the team was in a state of mutiny, tired of Campanelli's tirades and quick trigger with struggling players. Hendrick, as the team's leader, certainly played a role in the rebellion that brought assistant Todd Bozeman to the head job. At the time, it seemed selfish, but with some distance and perspective it was the right thing to do - but the wrong person to promote.
But in 1993 it sure seemed like a good idea, as Cal won nine of its last ten games. Hendrick, playing with more confidence due to both his healing knee and new head coach, posted a number of double-doubles down the stretch and demanded double teams that freed up Murray, Kidd and K.J. Roberts from the perimeter. In the NCAAs that year Hendrick blocked three shots in the first round win over LSU, and then collected 12 boards in the upset of Duke.
Brian Hendrick was a 6'9" tweener with a tricky knee, and he went undrafted by the NBA. Undaunted, he has built a nice career for himself in Japan and China, where he currently plays for the Fujian team.